Unsustainable Costs of Library Resources

Sometimes I feel like medical librarians have been talking to brick walls.  Either that, or we are talking to bobble heads who don’t really listen to us but nod their heads in agreement.

I get a weekly email summarizing the healthcare industry.  It is broken into local and national information and it is often an interesting quick read.  Today I read the article “US medical expenditures on the rise, except for primary and home health.” The largest expenditures were attributed to prescribed medications, specialty physicians, visits to the emergency department and inpatient hospitalizations.  While that was interesting, what really caught my eye were the links to the Top 40 articles in the past 6 months on the right:

 

Besides the one article about Trump’s budget, the first 9 articles listed were all about hospitals losing money or going bankrupt.

While Medicaid enrollment has increased, its reimbursement is significantly less than private insurers.  Then you have the increased costs of providing care. “In 2016, Cleveland Clinic’s expenses totaled $7.3 billion, up 19 percent from $6.1 billion in the year prior. The increase was largely attributable to growth in pharmaceutical, labor and supplies costs, which climbed 23 percent, 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively, year over year.”  The Cleveland Clinic is not alone,  Nationally, hospitals’ operating margins have shrunk due to smaller reimbursement, regulatory uncertainty and new alternative payment models.

Yet medical library resource vendors operate business as usual by increasing the costs of their products to clients (libraries) that are viewed as expensive cost centers in an industry that is losing money.  When librarians complain to the vendors known for price gouging, the vendors answer is to have the hospital shift the cost of their product out of the library budget and to IT, operations or another department with more money.  It doesn’t take a financial analyst to know THAT ISN’T A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION!!! The hospital still pays for that product at a rate far above inflation and far above their reimbursement.

Librarians have been telling vendors for years that their large price increases are unsustainable.  You could say we are complicit because we suck it up and pay for the price increases by finding the money through cutting book budgets, dropping other products, etc.  However, we are between a rock, a hard place, and an abyss.  The doctors need the price gouging resources so they can practice and treat patients. The vendors justify their price gouging by saying they actually “save the institution much more” because the doctors use it.  Hospital administrators end up cutting budgets overall to get handle on increasing costs.

It isn’t a pretty picture and it will get worse.  Are they getting the same healthcare industry news I am getting?  Are the just putting their head in the sand?  Is it like the home loan industry where the banks knew something was amiss but they rode that horse until it died a national debt crippling death?

Just wondering…..

 

 

 

Research Impact Part 2: Whole New System

This is a 3 part blog series.
Research Impact Part 1: Moving Away from tracking authors’ articles.

I am not going to mentioned the company we went with.  The primary reason for this is because I am trying to write this as broadly as possible so that it applies to anybody who is considering this type of endeavor, not the nitty gritty of a specific software.  While there is always room for improvement I am happy with what we chose and I am very happy with the support we have received upon implementing it.  If you are interested in learning more about the specific products we chose, email me and I will answer those questions.

As I mentioned in Part 1, there are a lot of products out there, Converis, InCites, Profiles, Pure, Plum, etc.  After looking at several products we ended up choosing two products by the same vendor.  The two products allowed us to upload HR data so that articles would be automatically sorted and indexed by author AND department, and it also included article level metrics that were more informative than just the journal impact factor.

There were a few major points that we had have in our system.  I recommend creating your list or requirements BEFORE you start contacting vendors because it easy to get caught up in all of the cool things their products can do which may or may not be compatible with your needs.  For example, you don’t want to get excited about new dishwasher that has a new wash cycle that gets your dishes so clean it could wash the white off of them when that model only comes with large handle that blocks your silverware drawer making it necessary to always open the dishwasher before opening the silverware drawer (or completely re-design your kitchen).  So have your must haves ahead of time.

Our must haves:

Automation –  That sounds stupid but there are some systems that are more automated than others.  All require some human touching even after implementation. Think about how much time you want/can spend on the system once it is all up and running.

Institutional organization structure – It must be able to organize published articles from all of our employees by department and institute. (Institute has several departments within it.)  This was a requirement because Administration wants to know the authorial output of each department and institute and annual performance review time.  So we need to click on Urology and see the papers written by people in Urology.  Do you need to track secondary appointments? Be careful that can be a long dark rabbit hole to go down.

Impact – While almost all of the products we looked at had some type of article impact number/indicator we needed to communicate with Administration as to the one that THEY wanted and felt the most comfortable with.  This is VERY important. There are about as meany methods of measurement as there are digits in pi.  Our Administration is very traditional, so that required us to look at product that used well established metrics that have been around for many years that our people were familiar with.

Things we didn’t need:

Repository system – Currently our institution has no interest in hosting a repository of the papers written by authors.  Obviously this could change, and if it does then it requires a fresh new look at things.

Author submission – Authors are not reliable providers of the citations they publish.  We had 20+ years of experience with this. Some authors don’t have the time to upload anything. Some authors add citations to their weight loss article in Ladies Home Journal.  Other authors have citations that say “in press” from 5 years ago.  Your data out is only as good as the data you put in, and we needed tight control over the data. So we didn’t want author submission. If it was a feature, it had to be something that could be turned off.

ORCID – That sounds odd.  We actually need ORCID. Everybody needs ORCID.   Until there is a mandate that requires an author to provide their ORCID number upon publication then ORCID will just be something “nice to have.” Even in a heavy research and publishing institution, ORCID is still something of a novelty.  We did not want something that was overly built on ORCID.

Panacea systems – Many of these products track everything under the sun.  They track grants, funding, etc.  There are systems that track the entire research life cycle, from the sparkle in that researcher’s eye to the mature cited paper and everything in between.  Like many institutions we have a various systems (some home grown) that track a lot of things that the “all in one” systems track.  Unless you have buy in across the institution to change every part of the research IT process then an all in one system may be overkill.

Lessons we learned:

HR or organizational data is messy –  Unfortunately this is not unique to us.  I have heard from people at several large institutions to learn that this type of data is often not clean.  What do I mean by that?  Assuming HR will let you have an HR dump of all employees (they are often very reluctant to do this) you might discover that there is missing or duplicate information.  You might find out that several people’s secondary appointment is an entire hospital (not a department).  You might find that HR data doesn’t include graduate students.  We had to piece together our data with several institutional systems and we created a python script to strip, clean, and organize the data into the format that they vendor used.

***
Updated Paragraph 5/19/17

Regarding HR uploads….. Think very carefully about if you want your entire HR list of employees added into the system.  That could be a lot of unnecessary data.  Do you need/want people in environmental services, security, IT, etc. in your system?  Do you only want doctors and researchers?  What about nurses, PA’s, medical students, residents, and allied health who publish?  You need to sit down and figure who you want to track and how you are going to get that list of people.

*****

Comparisons – You have to be very mindful if you use one of these systems to compare your institution with another.  If your administration is competitive and likes to see how they are ranked in their disciplines or overall, they are going to ask you to use the product to compare themselves against their peers.  Most of the products we looked at could compare different institutions, disciplines, and people.  But you must do this carefully.  For example: You cannot compare a large research hospital system with university hospital system.  Even though they are peers, the university system includes many more researchers and disciplines that can skew the results.  While you can compare disciplines or subjects, you cannot compare departments.  One institution’s cardiovascular department may include pediatric cardiology while another may not.

 

 

 

Future of Biomedical Publishing

A medical librarian friend of mine agreed to answer questions for a week on NEJM Resident 360. It involved some future casting and she emailed the medical librarian listserve to pick our brains. I sent her a few crystal ball predictions and she thought they were good and I should post them on the blog to further the discussion.

So, here is the question: What does the future of delivering medical literature and latest research hold?<https://resident360.nejm.org/posts/6339>

Here are my thoughts:

  • We are going to see more movement in the area of Open Textbooks.  Open access journals have started paving the way and now with more institutions really looking into curbing the costs of textbooks you are going to see medical schools and hospitals go in that direction once the larger universities really start committing to that idea.
  • There are going to be some big changes to peer review and publishing editorial boards to have more transparent data, information, etc. Currently we are living in a world that questions established medical facts as false.  Part of the problem is that there wasn’t enough vetting or the ability to vet information that allowed questionable, conflict of interest,  or fake articles to be published.  These questionable articles hurt the entire profession and cause people to distrust good information.  It took over 10 years to Andrew Wakefield’s article to be officially retracted. We need to ask ourselves, would the autism vs vaccines controversy have become as big as it was if the data was published immediately?
  • Reproducible data is getting more and more important.  With NIH’s data sharing requirements and the increase in data repositories, the ability reproduce research based on the data is extremely important.  However, a recent Nature study http://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970 found that 70% of researchers tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments and more than half of the scientists failed to reproduce their own experiments.  Yet we must be able to sort through the false leads from the latest discoveries.
  • Access will be more integrated.  Currently you can do a search in PubMed and links to the full text are available along with similar articles and citing articles.  Electronic medical health records can integrate health information such as UpToDate into the medical record.  I think as we move forward the literature will be more “on demand” and more integrated in other resources.
  • We will see more medical literature delivered via social media in the next few years.  The real growth is customized on demand information retrieval.  I can see where something like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home could interface with medical journals table of contents and articles and give you the latest updates or sync with your device or car and listen to the article while you are commuting.  Similar to a Browzine for the Echo or Home.

What do you see in your crystal ball?

Research Impact Part 1: Moving Away from Tracking Authors’ Articles

I have been toying with this post for quite a while, trying to think of a good way to present the information without it being to long.  Well the only way to do it is to break it into parts.  I will link all of the parts together once I have finished writing and posting them.

Part 1: Moving Away from Tracking Authors’ Articles

Before I was a medical librarian my library had been tracking every article, book, and book chapter that somebody within the institution authored.  It used to be a list that was published then it evolved into a database that was on a citation management software.

In the beginning it started with finding citations in PubMed.  But it evolved over the years to finding citations from other databases.  Basically the librarian in charge of finding the citations had MANY saved searches on PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, etc. that had the institution’s name in address of the author.   She would then download the citations, verify the author, and then add the name(s) of the department(s) that the institutional author(s) belonged to as a keyword field in the citation management software.

Books and book chapters were always a booger.  Their is no PubMed for books so finding those relied on a lot of web searching, notifications from our book suppliers, and from the from institutional authors themselves.  That information was also uploaded into the citation database.

However this practice was unsustainable for many reasons.

There are over 1800 variations of my institution’s name in PubMed.  From what I understand PubMed does no authority work for institutions.  Whatever the author writes is what is used.  This a HUGE problem if you are searching for all of the citations written by people in your institution.

In 2015 we had over 43,000 employees of which 3,200 were staff physicians, 10,965 nurses and over 1,500 research personnel in labs.  That’s a lot of citations to find.  While the saved searches were automated, the rest of the process needed to be to.    As the hospital system grew it made finding, verifying, indexing (adding the department names) uploading citations and maintenance a full time job for one librarian and became part of the duties for 3-4 other people.

At some point in time during the years of compiling a list of all the articles, books, and book chapters our authors wrote, administration decided to try to rank the citations.  Administration decided to compare the department(s) list of published articles.  Because we were still hand coding departments and loading the citations into a static reference database (like EndNote, RefMan, RefWorks) there was no way to add a continually changing variable like h-index, impact factor, or other metrics.  So they did the imprecise method of just having somebody sort all of the department(s) articles by the impact factor of the journal it was published in.  (Yes, that sound you hear are librarian teeth gnashing.)

As you can imagine this always presented issues, specifically for disciplines whose top journals don’t have huge impact factors like NEJM or JAMA.  Yet we were limited by our retrieval and storage capabilities and administrations (understandable) demand to quantify quality.

Something had to give, and it did.  Our entire database was housed on RefMan.  (Hey RefMan was state of the art when we started down this path.) RefMan was no longer supported by its maker as of December 2016.  We couldn’t migrate the data over to EndNote for two major reasons. One, all of the indexing we did to make sure we could sort people by department was done in the notes field.  We used other fields in RefMan for other “notes” and purposes.  This was all done by a cataloger so there was really good consistency, but the notes field and other fields did not map well between RefMan and EndNote so there would have been EXTENSIVE cleanup for 20 yrs worth of data. (not the best use of time or resources)  Two, migrating everything to EndNote still did not solve our metrics problem, assigning a value to the published articles that administration wanted. This forced our hand to make major changes such as automating the entire collection of citations procedure, including article level metrics within the database, and making it more sustainable as our institution continues to grow.

Through our investigations we discovered several products out there, Converis, InCites, Profiles, Pure, Plum, the list is large (note I don’t agree with all listed on Wikipedia but gives you an idea).  We ended up choosing two products by the same vendor. The two products allowed us to upload HR data so that articles would be automatically sorted and indexed by author AND department, and it also included article level metrics that were more informative than just the journal impact factor.

Migrating to this was not an easy task.  Part 2 will talk about the migration and things we learned (still learning) and I think Part 3 will talk a bit about the cultural shift from moving away from a cumulative list of publications to a list of publications’ impact.  Stay tuned.

 

How Librarians Can Help Healthcare Professionals

I recently wrote a blog post for NEJM Resident 360 (NEJM subscription required) about how residents can better utilize librarian services.  How to Take Advantage Your Medical Librarian, details a few of the common ways librarians can help doctors during their residency program and beyond.  As a medical librarian, I know there are a lot of other things we can do for residents and other healthcare professionals.  There are medical librarians who are doing different types of services, reaching out to provide information in creative ways, and doing things beyond the walls of the library that help our healthcare professionals in ways I have never dreamed.

So this post is sort of a “shared” post.  I would like any medical librarian to either comment below, tweet, or email* me the ways you help your healthcare professionals.  Healthcare professionals can be anyone (doctor, student, nurse, researchers, social work, pastoral care, hospital administration, etc.) that work with biomedical information, patients or families of patients, or who help fellow healthcare professionals in their jobs.

I will kick things off:

  • Create online journal club portals for nurses, enabling them to get CEs
  • Acquire spiritual & religious resources from other libraries to help pastoral care
  • Track every article written in a journal with an impact factor by the institution’s researchers & authors and provide those statistics, citation analysis, and collaboration impact to individuals and departments within the institution.
  • Help create treatment and care guidelines within the institution and with national associations.

Don’t leave me hanging…. contact me and I will add them to the bullet list. IF you have online documentation (research, website, article) give me the URL and I will link to that within the bullet point.
*email
krafty[atsign]kraftylibrarian[dotcom]
If you are a member of MLA use my email contact in the MLA directory

 

What is Real?

I have always been a scifi junkie even before I knew that was genre term. I can remember as a grade school kid checking out all of the books about ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle. I remember being disappointed when I had read everything on those topics in my public library. As I got older I branched out into aliens and conspiracy theories.  When the X-Files came out it was like seeing my public library bookshelf had added new titles and gone on TV.

All of those books, movies and TV shows dealt with what was real and what was fake.  Is there really a Bigfoot or is somebody walking around with really big fake feet?  Are there really ghosts or is it a shadow, lens flare, or active imagination?  The question of what is real, is always at the forefront.  You have the absolute believers who I think if they saw me early in the morning yelling at my kids to get ready for school would think demonic possession (I’m scary in so many ways in the morning).  You have the complete skeptics who can’t explain and discount a mother that had a bad feeling about her son, who unknown to her at the time was in a car accident in another city.

The question of what is real and fake has gone mainstream.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Masters of Illusion, you have more questionable types of “organizations” producing journals and holding conferences.  As CTVNews reported, you have questionable companies buying up reputable scientific journals.  For example, OMICS recently purchased several respected Canadian medical journals.  This is a cause for concern because the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against OMICS, “alleging that the company is ‘deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications’ and falsely claiming that its journals follow rigorous peer-review protocols.”

We live in a Wag the Dog world.  Where technology and communication have made it difficult to tell the difference between real news/research and fabricated.  The mud slinging and fact twisting of previous Presidential elections seems so quaint compared to the outright fake news about both candidates that flooded people’s dashboards and “news streams.”  We have people questioning reputable news organizations and claiming they are either fake news agencies or report on fake news.

How does the Presidential election fake news mess impact problem of fake scientific research and publishing.  It doesn’t, but it illustrates how fake information can easily be taken for real and how real information can be then called fake by opposition.  Take the example vaccines causing autism. There is not one reputable study that can show that vaccines cause autism.  The whole debacle was caused by a researcher who faked his research (funded by solicitors seeking evidence against vaccines) and published in The Lancet, a reputable journal, that there was a link to vaccines and autism. The Lancet has since retracted the article.  You have faked research/information which was believed to be real by the people. Now that it is proven to be fake you still have people believing in the fake research questioning the real research and calling it fake. They believe in the fake research and disbelieve the real research so much that people say the researcher is a scapegoat.

The lines between real and fake research and real and fake news have become entangled, making me wonder how it can be fixed.  Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory journals has been disappeared.  Inside Higher Ed,  quotes a spokesperson for CU Denver (Beall’s employer) that “Beall made a ‘personal decision’ to take down the website.” There is much speculation online as to why he made this personal decision.  Reputable publishers do their best to sniff out fake research.  However, if reputable publishers publish questionable journal issues funded by drug companies and reputable publishers are bought by questionable companies it paints a picture of an industry that has problems policing itself.  Who is left to determine what is real and what is fake?

Which leaves me to end this post with a quote from one my favorite scifi movies, The Matrix.

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.

 

Masters of Illusion

One of my favorite scenes from the Simpsons is where bartender Moe sets up a fake upscale looking entrance to his bar to try and attract more customers.  After entering the bar the upscale customer says, “Hey, this isn’t faux dive. This is a dive,” to which Moe responds, “You’re a long way from home, yuppie-boy. I’ll start a tab.”

With just a few word changes and the same idea could be expressed about fake academic journals.  This has been a topic of discussion for the last few years in the library world.  The New York Times has an interesting and more mainstream article addressing the issue of fake journals and fake academic conferences.

In the article “Fake Academe, Looking Much Like the Real Thing” Kevin Carey, describes how he was contacted via phone call to attend a conference in Philadelphia a mere 20 minutes after he entered his information on a website.  Carey also goes on to describe how many of these real sounding “associations” can have shady if not outright illegal dealings and offer little to no academic rigor for paper submissions.

Unfortunately we live in a time when what is faux dive and real dive is getting harder and harder to determine.  Lots of people have fallen prey to fake news by re-posting the stories on the social media accounts.  People need to do more investigating to determine legitimate sources of information (news or academic).  However, we also live in a time where people often feel too rushed to do that.  Everything must be done NOW!  Wait for an article to come via ILL? Nope just find another one that is available online that can.

Unlike falling prey to fake news on social media, the fake “scholarly” associations, publications, etc. might cause the researcher more time and money than if they had slowed down and investigated things.  I know there are librarians who actively help their researchers avoid questionable publishers.  My guess though is that for every researcher a librarian helps there is another who falls victim.  Hopefully more mainstream stories like this will help alert others to do a little more digging.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

A few years ago I got started down a path thanks to a library director friend in Oklahoma who asked me to teach a class specifically for hospital librarians.  While he worked in an academic medical library he noticed that hospital librarians in his area needed some help thinking of different ways to prove their value or justify their existence, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act (which was very new at the time and nobody knew what would happen…but they knew it would have a pretty big impact).

In preparation for the class, I did a lot of research on the ACA.  I was and still am not an authority on the ACA but I did learn a lot about the changing landscape that hospitals would be (and now are) dealing with.  The biggest change was moving from a fee for service model to a value based model of providing healthcare services.

(Gross over simplification of the ACA coming next….if you want more info click here for a very detailed LibGuide on it.)

Traditionally hospitals were paid on how many procedures they did and billed.  If you had a heart attack were admitted, then released, and then readmitted a few days later…they were paid for the services they provided each time you were admitted.  The ACA now penalizes hospitals that have readmission rates for certain conditions, procedures, etc. In the heart attack example the hospital would still be paid for the services they provided BUT they would also incur a penalty if their readmission rate for heart attacks was too high.  In the beginning these penalties happened for just a few conditions such as heart failure but it has evolved to include more conditions AND acquired hospital conditions like infections.  Every hospital is ranked on these things and those with the poorest score are penalized.  Those with the best score are rewarded.

Not only are hospitals in competition with each other over their reimbursement rates. But they are also in competition for patients.  Now days it is very common for patients to have a very high deductible for care.  If a patient has to spend $4000 before their insurance kicks in, they are going to look for and compare the costs of hospitals.  Both patients and insurance companies are doing this.

So what does this mean for the librarian and why on earth did I focus on this in my class in Oklahoma?  It means that hospitals have to completely change their financial and caregiver goals.  This also means that they are looking at EVERY department in the hospital to see how it fits into these new goals of the hospital.  So cardiology, environmental services, IT, and yes the library all are judged by administration as to how they help the hospital meet their goals.  Clinical departments have a leg up on departments like the library because they can point directly to numbers to tell hospital administration what they are directly doing to impact the hospital goals.  Heck even environmental services has a leg up on the library.  “Was your room clean?” is a question on the HCAHPS hospital survey that patients receive to rate their hospital experience…..which also directly impacts ACA reimbursement.

So while other departments are able to point to specific data to illustrate to the administration how their department helps the hospital achieve its goals, the library has no such data.  Sure we do literature searches and support the caregivers, but what data do we have to show that those searches impact the hospital’s goals?

I recently attended a meeting where hospital administration explained the hospital’s strategy and goals and then explained how the clinical departments fit into those goals.  The administrator then explained how they will be working with non-clinical departments in the near future to develop appropriate measures to support the hospital goals.  DING DING DING At least the administration realizes the value of the non-clinical departments and will be working with them to create MEASURABLE goals that help the hospital meet its goals.  I am not so sure every hospital administration is reaching out to their non-clinical departments like this.

After hearing of the hospital administration mentioning non-clinical departments accountable for providing measurable data that supports the hospitals goals, I had a flashback to my Oklahoma group 2 years ago and to the other ACA and the library classes I taught after them.

Hospital administration wants to know specifically how you help them meet their goals.  They are asking “What have you done for me lately?”  I hope for your sake you just don’t tell them you do literature searches to support the doctors and nurses who treat patients.  Because while that is true….they are going to need to know in a 3 bullet point slide how literature searches lead to their hospital goals being achieved.  It is not their job to fill in the blanks as to how the lit searches do that.  It is your job.

Life as the President of MLA: Part 2

So now it is down to the nitty gritty, what does the MLA President do all year?

I will do my best to describe my activities for the year, but for more specific details MLA members can look through the position description for President in the Board Job Descriptions document.

May 2015
Wednesday “after” the MLA meeting when everyone is going home, taking some extra vacation, or finishing up some MLA conference activities like CE or final meetings, the MLA Board meets to do a sort of post conference meeting.  This is where we discuss the meeting as a whole and anything that came out during the meeting from MLA groups (Sections, SIGs, committees, etc.). In general the Board does not make heavy lifting decisions at this meeting because we are just as worn out from the meeting as the rest of the members.

June 2015
The President attends the MLA/AAHSL Legislative Task Force in Washington DC and meets with Senate and House staff to advocate on behalf of NLM and other legislative issues happening within the Senate or House that are important to health science librarians. I can’t remember specifically the specific issues from 2015 but in 2016 some of the issues we discussed were NIH and NLM funding increase, approve the appointment of the Librarian of Congress, and issues pertaining to copyright.

In the past the President is invited and has gone to the ALA Annual Conference. This isn’t a requirement and as I understand, things have changed at the ALA meeting and the there isn’t as much for the presidents of other library associations as there was in years past.  I was also invited to the CHLA/ABSC annual meeting in Vancouver.  The MLA President doesn’t always go to this meeting but I felt it was important to attend because we were co-hosting the 2016 annual meeting in Toronto.  So I opted to go to the Vancouver meeting and one of the Board Members who lives in California and was planning to go to ALA attended on behalf of me and MLA.

BTW I totally loved the CHLA/ABSC meeting and if you can get to go to one of their meetings it is totally worth it (and they are so nice).

August 2015
The Board meets virtually in August and the President prepares the agenda and runs the meeting.  While this is our first official meeting after the annual meeting the Board often discusses things via email.  So this virtual meeting provides the opportunity for all of us to meet and discuss things in real time as well as approve any motions that have been presented.

I also attended IFLA.  In the past the MLA President would attend IFLA.  Currently this is not something the President will attend.  I know some MLA members are unhappy with this and I understand where they are coming from.  However, at this time IFLA is not a good fit for MLA given its current goals.  IF this changes and MLA re-joins IFLA, August is the time the President would go to IFLA.

September 2015
In the past the President would visit the next (their) MLA meeting city and facility.  As I mentioned, the meeting was a joint meeting with CHLA/ABSC so I did not go to Toronto, as much was already being taken care of.

October 2015
October is the Chapter meeting scramble.  There are only 4 weeks in October and it seems every MLA Chapter has their meeting in these 4 weeks.  Sure there might be a few renegades who hold their meeting the last week of September or the first week of November.  In general, everybody has a mad craze to always hold their meetings at the same time.  It makes it impossible for the President to attend every Chapter meeting.  As a result the Board has to figure out who will attend which meeting so that there is at least one person from the Board attending each meeting.

While I was President I really wanted to attend every Chapter meeting, unfortunately cloning wasn’t (and still isn’t) possible.  I personally wish Chapters could spread their meetings out over the year.  My personal goal is to attend every Chapters’ meeting at least once in my library career. I love the Chapter meetings.  You learn so much and meet so many people in a nice bite size environment.

November 2015
The Board meets in person in Chicago every November.  Over the years I have been a Board Member and President it seems that this meeting is held on or touching my birthday every time.  I think there is a hidden passage in the Board manual that dictates this.  The President meets with the Treasurer, President Elect, Past President, and the Executive Director a day before the rest of the Board meet.  The Board meets usually for 1 1/2 days discussing in person things we have been working on (via email) and items brought forth by the MLA groups.

By the way this is the best meeting to see your warm weather Board Members deal with just the very beginnings of winter in Chicago.  *giggle*

This November I also attended the MLA Historical Marker ceremony in Philadelphia.  Obviously this doesn’t happen every year but there are events that “pop up” that the MLA President attends.  For example, last week (September 12, 2016) Teresa attended the swearing in of the new NLM director Dr Patti Brennan.

December 2015
The President doesn’t usually travel this month but this is an important month for MLA.  This is the month that the MLA election results are available and the President notifies the candidates.  These were some of the best and worst calls I had to make.  I worked with many of the people who were on the slate and all of them were wonderful librarians doing great things and each and every one of them deserved to be elected.  It sucks that they couldn’t all be elected.

February 2016
Instead of traveling to Chicago in the dead of winter (thankfully) we have another virtual Board Meeting.  Much like the August meeting, this allows the Board to meet online and discuss things that we have been working via email.

The President also must do some writing.  They write the Welcome letter for the Annual Meeting program and the MLA priorities or goals for the MLA News.

March and April 2016
While there isn’t any traveling the President is increasingly eyeball deep into the Annual Meeting preparation as it gets closer to May.

May 2016
The President travels to the annual meeting a few days before the meeting starts to attend Board meetings.  Similar to the Chicago meeting the President, President Elect, Past President, Treasurer and Executive Director meet the day before the entire Board meets.  Then the entire Board meets for 2 days before the start of the annual meeting.  Once the annual meeting starts, the President is   attending and speaking at MLA group meetings and events.  Hopefully, not many future Presidents have to preside over a change in the bylaws.  That was not my strength and I am forever grateful to those who helped me through it.

Every day of the Annual Meeting is super busy for the President. IMHO the President can call it a successful day if they had time to go to the bathroom.  As busy as I was during the Toronto meeting, I enjoyed the time I spent in the hallways chatting with members and meeting new people.  I know I have said this before, but it is totally true…. You learn the most from the meeting by talking and engaging with your colleagues and meeting new people.

At the end of the Annual Meeting, the President becomes the Past President and has come full circle to pass the gavel to the President Elect who is the new President and runs the post Annual Meeting Board Meeting.

Other things that don’t fall in a timeline:

Email, email, email.  A lot of work with the Board, MLA groups,  MLA staff and MLA members is done via email.  Prior to becoming President my inbox was under control.  While I was President I had to develop all sorts of files in my saved email folders or else my inbox would have been a nightmare.

Pop up events. It probably isn’t really correct to call them pop up events because usually the events the MLA President attends aren’t sudden.  I just call them pop up events because they are predictable yearly events.  For example: my trip to Philadelphia for the Historical Marker and Teresa’s trip this September to the new Director of NLM’s induction.

Phone calls. The President has a phone call every other week with the Executive Director.  Every other week the President has a phone call with the Past President, President Elect, Treasurer, and the Executive Director.  So the President has a scheduled phone call every week regarding MLA.  Of course those are the scheduled phone calls, there are always phone calls from MLA staff and members that are about different items.

The job descriptions document says the average time commitment for the President (not including travel) is about a day per week.  I would say that is pretty accurate but it isn’t like a whole day at one time.  It is an hour here and there so it wasn’t as noticeable to me as a whole day would have been.  What was noticeable was how much of my thoughts occupied MLA activities.  Perhaps this is because I was “in touch” with MLA stuff for a little bit each day (via email or phone).

So there you have it…what I did as MLA President for an entire year.  I am sure I missed something.  I hope this is helpful for anyone who is contemplating running for President.  It was one of the best things I did in my career.  It was tiring and yes some things I used to do in my free time suffered (this blog and my swimming) but my family was super awesome and according to my husband my family didn’t suffer.  With his support I was still able to have a pretty good work/life balance.

My hope is to get back to this blog and swimming more. However, I have had a recent career change that will probably fill the spot that MLA President once had.  I have accepted and will be the Director of my library in October.  The first few months are going to be busy as I learn my new role but I think I can still squeeze in a post or two a month instead of watching Real Housewives.

Three Legged Dogs are Cool

I know I owe you all part 2 post on Life and MLA President but I have gotten delayed.  My 1 yr old puppy, Chewie (as in Chewbacca of course) was diagnosed with cancer and had to have his leg removed.  That kind of sucking away all of my available free time.

Chewie doing good after surgery.

While Chewie doesn’t have much to do with medical librarianship, I have to say the little dude has inspired.